How to respond to insults

February 17, 2012 by Joshua
in Awareness, Blog

Nobody likes being insulted. We often feel compelled to respond in kind, all too often exacerbating problems. I haven’t found advice to have a thick skin or not to let it affect you helpful, especially when angry or feeling attacked. It feels like letting the other person win.

Understanding the situation from a different perspective makes responding easier. The main principle: When people insult, they say more about themselves than the person they insult.

To clarify, everybody has values and standards. When they evaluate others they come up with their judgments. Insults express how their perception of someone measures up to their standards.

In other words, when someone insults someone, they are telling you about their standards. Often they say nothing about the other person.

“You’re a jerk” means “I don’t like you.” Third parties may consider that person a jerk or not.

“You’re ugly” means “I don’t find you attractive.” Third parties may consider that person attractive or not.

You can translate other insults the same way. Note also all insults implicitly say, “I’m judgmental” and “I want to hurt you.”

However it sounds, I find it easier to stay calm by realizing they are just telling me something about themselves. Then you don’t need a thick skin to stay unaffected. You can just realize they didn’t say anything about you, just about them.

You can almost always respond with “thank you for sharing your opinion,” since that’s what they did. Such a response tends to defuse tense situations and disarm people trying to hurt you. Instead of feeling like you capitulated, you feel like you rose above the judgment and malevolence and invite them to join you.

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